This election, voters in Daytona Beach have a historically low number of choices. That’s because one family, the Henrys, have positioned themselves for a full takeover of local government.
One family aims to control the political landscape of the city. Mayor Derrick Henry sits on the city commission with his brother Patrick Henry of Zone 5 and they hope to turn Zone 5 over to their sister Dannette Henry as Patrick pursues his bid for state representative in District 26.
In one basket
In what the Henrys hope will be Daytona Beach’s first monarchy, voters are being asked to lift one family up above all others and shift the balance of local power in their direction, threatening our democracy and putting all of our city’s proverbial eggs in one basket.
Regardless of substance or political acumen, the Henrys hope name recognition will expand their family’s reach. Acting as rubber stamps for each other, the Henrys could skirt opposition to measures they aim to advance while obstructing the role of a fair, balanced, and elected city government. The system of checks and balances that embody the primary function of local government is at risk when too much power is given to one family.
We have seen our fair share of political dynasties in this country with the Kennedy and Bush families. These dynasties became more dangerous to our democracy when family members began serving on the same body at the same time as in the case with the Henrys here in Daytona Beach.
The existence of dynasties implies that in a city where presumably everyone can make it to the top, people with certain names stand a much greater chance to succeed in the life of politics. This also means that certain individuals have a privileged access to political power by virtue of the family they were born into.
The Henrys have held onto the Zone 5 seat of the city commission since 2008 when Derrick Henry was first elected. Patrick Henry, then a newcomer to public office was elected as commissioner to Zone 5 in 2010 and has held the seat since. Dannette Henry is now seeking to finish her brother’s term as he pursues his bid for District 26. Dannette Henry and Mykal Tairu will face off in November for Zone 5.
With the results of the 2016 primary election leaning in the Henry family’s favor, it can be interpreted that the citizens of Daytona Beach want dynastic succession, without considering the advantages of a local dynasty. The Henrys are able to (and do) raise large amounts of money from the same sources, spend less of their funds by hiring the same workers for all of their campaigns, and appeal to a larger audience through name recognition alone.
No ‘royal blood’
This country was founded on the principle that family dynasties (royal blood) were inherently wrong. The idea that the Henry family can take control of local government is unfair to the citizens and our democracy.
Each candidate should run and be evaluated on his or her own merits. There is no room in a true democracy for “hereditary rights.”
Elections are about choices and voices. By using name recognition and familiarity, the Henrys are limiting the choices of voters and silencing the voices of those outside their family tree.
Katienna Brown is a Daytona Beach resident and a registered voter.